Mumbai:- Seven years after terrorist Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon was hanged to death in 2015, a major political controversy ignited over the reported ‘make-over’ of his grave at the Bada Qabrastan in south Mumbai, here on Thursday.
Following an uproar and a political free-for-all among Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a probe into the matter.
Memon, 53, a CA, was found guilty and convicted for his role in the March 12, 1993 Mumbai blasts, and hanged in Nagpur Central Jail on July 30 (2015) — his birthdate — after all his pleas for pardon/clemency up to the President were rejected.
The original earthen grave, where Memon was buried, recently got a face-lift with a gleaming marble grave coming up there, amid flood-lighting — and apprehensions — that the terrorist’s final resting place would soon become a ‘mazar’ (mausoluem).
Acting swiftly, the Mumbai Police on Thursday yanked off the lighting arrangements in Bada Qabrastan this morning, as a grave political dogfight erupted among all the major parties for allegedly allowing the revamp there.
NCP’s Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar said that there cannot be glorification of any terrorist and the beautification of Memon’s grave should not be permitted.
Blaming its bete-noire and ex-ally Shiv Sena, BJP Spokesperson Ram Kadam asked why the ex-Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray kept silent when Memon’s grave was being converted into a shrine.
“Thackeray was the (then) CM and during his period the grave was turned into a shrine. This is their patriotism and love for Mumbai? Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Rahul Gandhi should apologise to the people of Mumbai,” Kadam demanded.
Hitting back, Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande dismissed the BJP’s allegations and said when Memon was hanged, the BJP government was in power both in the Centre and state — here Devendra Fadnavis was the CM and also home minister.
“Why did he allow Memon’s body to be handed over to his family? What prevented the BJP government in the Centre and state to formulate a policy on how to deal with the mortal remains of terror convicts or other dreaded criminals,” Dr. Kayande asked.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Atul Londhe said that during the UPA tenure, two dreaded terrorists were hanged but their bodies were secretly disposed off to prevent their graves from becoming a rallying point in future.
While Afzal Guru was executed in February 2013 in the Tihar Jail of Delhi, Pakistani extremist Ajmal Kasab was hanged in Yerawada Central Jail in Pune.
“The BJP — which was in power then — deliberately gave Memon’s body to the family for elaborate funerals. Their intention is to create communal divide. Even when the Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces, his body was dumped in the sea,” Londhe pointed out.
Several other BJP leaders like Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Ashish Shelar and Kirit Somaiya and Sena leaders like Aditya Thackeray, Ambadas Danve, Arvind Sawant and Kishori Pednekar indulged in the political tussle over the grave revamp.
Thackeray and Pednekar rejected outright the BJP charges saying they are ‘mischievous’ and intended to malign Uddhav Thackeray’s image before the upcoming civic elections.
“The BMC has never given permission. Its role is over after allotting the land. The Bada Qabrastan belongs to a trust. How is the Sena or Thackeray connected with all this,” an irate Pednekar demanded.
Needling the Sena further, Shelar sarcastically said the ‘Penguin’ Sena (a snide reference to Aditya Thackeray-led Yuva Sena) should launch a ‘Save Memon Grave’ campaign.
Stating that Fadnavis has ordered a probe, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar slammed the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA)’s alleged links with the mafiosi Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar and how ex-NCP minister Nawab Malik landed in jail.
Despite repeated attempts by IANS, the Bada Qabrastan trustees were not available for comments on the matter.